Singapore—Fifty-one-year-old Leslie Khoo Kwee Hock, who was convicted in High Court last month for strangling his mistress and then burning her body to hide the evidence, has been sentenced to life in prison.
Since Mr Khoo is past the age of 50, he will not be subject to caning.
Mr Khoo killed 31-year-old Chinese national and engineer Cui Yajie in 2016 by strangling her in his car and then spent the next three days burning her remains.
According to the prosecution’s submissions, the court would have to decide only between life imprisonment or the death penalty.
“While this honourable court has found the accused guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, his absolute disposal of the body hampers the consideration of his appropriate sentence,” said Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair and Deputy Public Prosecutors Tan Wen Hsien, Sarah Shi and Stephanie Koh.
The prosecutors contended, “While the accused’s actions are undoubtedly reprehensible, there is some doubt as to whether they meet the legal requirements for the imposition of the death penalty. The accused should be given the benefit of that doubt.”
According to the presiding judge on the case, Justice Audrey Lim, the case did not warrant that the death penalty be imposed, as this requires that the offender exhibits viciousness or blatant disregard for human life. She also noted that neither was the prosecution necessarily seeking it.
”The court of appeal … stated that the death sentence is the final and terminal sentence an offender can suffer, and should only be imposed after the most anxious consideration,” Justice Lim said.
She added, ”Evidence did not suggest that Leslie planned to kill the deceased when he first met up with her on Jul 12, 2016. Leslie was likely caught unawares that the deceased had seriously intended to confront his bosses on that day. Indeed his plan was to attempt to dissuade her from so doing.”
Justice Lim said there was no proof that what Mr Khoo did was brutal, vicious, or that the onslaught was sustained.
Ms Cui had been about to expose the falsehoods Mr Khoo had been telling concerning his marriage and employment. She had also been persistently asking him to return the S$10,000 he had borrowed from her for an “investment” in gold.
The Chinese national had met Mr Khoo when she was at a particularly vulnerable period in her life, having had just broken off from her former boyfriend, who happened to be a neighbor of Mr Khoo. They began a relationship, but Mr Khoo had lied to her from the beginning, saying that he was a divorcee and the owner of a laundry.
On his part, Mr Khoo denied having had an affair with Ms Cui, saying she was not his type. According to him, they were just friends.
On the morning of her death, he took her for a ride near Gardens by the Bay, where they began to argue and even became physically violent with each other.
He told the court that he realized that his hand was on the neck of his lover only when she stopped struggling. After having left her body in his car overnight, he decided to cremate her remains.
After burning her body in a remote area along Lim Chu Kang Lane 8, he scattered her ashes into the sea. Police determined that he had been the last person to see Ms Cui, and Mr Khoo was arrested, whereupon he brought the police to Lim Chu Kang, where remnants of her clothes were found.
Mr Khoo’s lawyers argued that he had been suffering from diminished responsibility and that he acted on grave and sudden provocation.
A private psychiatrist assessed that Khoo had Intermittent Explosive Disorder, characterized by violent outbursts, and which significantly affected his mental responsibility for his doings. Even his wife had a personal protection order due to his violence against her.